Everyone has a job to do in your office, but sometimes you find it difficult with a coworker always asking for help. They can distract you, add stress to your day and leave you feeling uncooperative when you are busy.
You want to maintain a friendly work atmosphere, so you try to help when you can. But it can be taxing to listen to a colleague’s complaints, both personal and professional. You have deadlines at work to meet and your own personal challenges that take their toll.
Albert Einstein said, “Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem.” You can solve the problem of a coworker always asking for help when you stop participating.
A needy coworker can put you in the position of having to acknowledge their troubles, while acknowledging your limits. There are ways you can deal with this problem without alienating your colleague. Try these four tips to handle a coworker always asking for help.
Keep work and personal matters separate
It is important to maintain friendly relations at work, but you should draw boundaries with coworkers. You want to be seen as amiable, but not the main confidante to a colleague. Too much familiarity with coworkers might encourage some to take advantage of that relationship.
You can keep colleagues from taking up too much of your work time with personal matters with boundaries. You can do this by keeping your personal and work relationships separate. The best way to do this is to lead by example.
Do not spend time talking to colleagues about all of your personal issues. This helps establish that you are focused on your work and not inclined to get too personal. You can tell your colleagues that you prefer to keep work conversations tied to your job.
Once you establish your preference for keeping things professional, make that clear when colleagues get personal. If a colleague approaches with personal information they want to discuss, let them know you are not comfortable discussing it.
If you are one of those people who Forbes calls a natural problem solver, you may be a target for coworkers and bosses. It is easier for them to get the answer from you then it is for them to find it on their own. But then their problem becomes your problem.
You should be willing as a team player to help colleagues who work with you on a project. But it isn’t fair if you are doing all the problem solving and they are leaning on you. Let them know you have a lot on your plate and ask if they will find the solution themselves.
You do not always have to be the one with the answers to a problem. Encourage that coworker always asking for help to research the problem and find solutions. If after that effort they are unable to solve the problem, you can offer to help them.
But use this opportunity to teach your colleague how you found the answer. If you do that, you reduce the chances that they will come back to you for answers. You also show them the value of solving their own problems.
There are coworkers who do not take the hint that you prefer them to solve their own problems. They continue to come back to you with questions without attempting to seek the answers themselves. This allows you to consider possible trends in their questions and in the struggle they face with finding answers.
This is a good time to tell them that you want to help them succeed by developing a strategy for problem solving. Consider the types of work questions they ask and whether there are similarities. Identify similarities and suggest a plan that will help them address the broader problem they face.
There may be a particular subject that they struggle with or a work task. They may not completely understand a particular protocol or guideline used at work. Once you identify the issue, you can help them overcome that problem.
The goal is to help the coworker act independently, for their success at work and yours. They may need a tutorial on the company’s guidelines or protocol. They may need training on company systems that will give them the tools they need to succeed.
You can be a helpful colleague without having to solve everyone’s problems. Find the best way to help coworkers that doesn’t require you to solve every problem.
Suggest outside assistance for coworker always asking for help
When it comes to solving personal problems for colleagues, that was never listed as a job requirement. You do not have to feel guilty for the frustration you feel about being bothered by personal problems. There are ways to make personal problems off limits at work without alienating colleagues.
First, you can let your colleague know that you are sorry they are facing personal struggles. You can explain that you do not feel qualified or knowledgeable enough to address their problems. It is important to show compassion, but also to remain firm that you are serious about work.
When that coworker always asking for help comes with a personal matter, tell them you do not feel you can offer help. Remind them of company resources that are available for counseling and assistance. Recommend that they consider seeking professional help to resolve the problem before it affects their work.
You can also suggest that they touch base with their supervisor or human resources for guidance. They can point out available resources that can address the problem. It is also important that they are aware of problems your colleague may have that could impact performance.
By recommending outside help to address their problem, you are offering your coworker tools to act. You do not have to be their problem-solver and you can reduce the impact it has on you.